WWC member Peter Morley is back in print to celebrate the fact that he has found the motorbike his dad went to war on … or one very much like it. Peter’s original quest was featured earlier in the year in Old Bike Mart – and now his letter reporting success in his quest has been published there, too.
In his letter Peter says: “The OBM published my account of my introduction to motorcycling in June. Now I’ve found the bike my dad went to war on, or one very like it, thanks to OBM. A military Triumph 3HW was posted for sale in the August edition. I discussed it with the seller who was clearly a genuine enthusiast with an honest bike for sale. We agreed a price and I drove to North Somerset with my trailer to close the deal and collect the bike.
“The machine I have is 3HW (350 cc OHV). Some sources suggest the 3HW was first made in 1940 and most agree it replaced the 3SW for military use in 1942, with production continuing until 1945. My Dad’s bike could have been a 3SW (350 cc SV) or a 3HW it’s difficult to tell from the photos. My Triumph looks pretty much the same.
“The WD [War Department] tried to standardise, with as many common parts as possible between manufacturers. The standard was settled as 350 OHV and 500 SV with the 350’s in lightweight frames favoured for dispatch riders [DRs]. The Triumph 3HW weighs in at 250 lbs. These machines were manageable over rough ground and could be manhandled when necessary but were powerful enough to enable good progress.”
Peter’s letter goes on to say: “The DR was the primary means of passing orders and dispatches during engagements. Radio was considered unreliable but with the DR the safety of the message was the most important thing and they were inspired by their motto, ‘Swift and Sure’. During Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Dunkirk, orders were passed to the units holding the ‘Strong Points’ that guarded the perimeter. These orders were usually, ‘Hold your position.’ If you visit the Commonwealth War Graves in the area you will see the headstones of men of the rear-guard regiments and one or two of the Royal Signals – the dispatch riders. Dad made it home but left his Triumph near Dunkirk.
“I love the history of my bike. It is a genuine WD machine, similar to Dad’s but it has its own history too. It was ‘civilianised’. The previous owner said he bought it intending to put it back into khaki but thank goodness he didn’t get around to it. It is a real relic of the postwar austerity years of baby boomers, prefabs and orange juice and cod liver oil.
“This bike was sold as army surplus to a dealer in Bristol who slapped on a bit green and some black paint and sold it in 1948 as a get-to-work transport for men home from the war and re-joining the workforce to pay off the war debt and raise a family.
“I understand these 350 Triumphs are quite rare today. Although 30,000 were made, many were lost during the war and, when the opportunity for a bit of leisure came along in the early fifties, the engine was found to be good for grasstrack or trials competition resulting in survivors being adapted for this purpose.
“So, my 3HW will keep its colours and help me to remember how far we have come – from the day my dad went to France with the BEF, during the austere years of my childhood and through a lasting peace – to a time when an old man, who never needed to go to war, can indulge in a bit of nostalgia and a lot of gratitude for the men and women who made it possible.”
This week Peter gave a talk based on the above at the monthly meeting of the Vintage Motorcycle Club at Brooklands Museum. He said: “It was amazingly well received and enabled the sale of 10 copies of my book Orange Juice and Cod Liver Oil.”